On Tuesday 8 January, company bosses of Bel 20 companies, the main index of the Brussels Stock Exchange, have already this year earned the equivalent of the annual median wage of Belgian workers in a year. The announcement has come from the CNE, the Christian workers trade union, which describes today as “CEO Jackpot Day”.
According to the CNE, with a gross median annual salary of €1,975,000 in 2017, the CEOs of Bel 20 companies (including AB InBev, Elia, Colruyt amongst others) will have seen an increase of 22.7% in their annual salary over three years, but a decrease of 5% over the last year.
They currently earn an average of €7,596 for each day worked. Nabil Sheikh Hassan, an economist at the CNE’s Research department details, “Given that the median annual wage of Belgian workers in 2017 was €43,082 (the wage estimated on the basis of available statistics), Bel 20 CEOs earned the median annual salary of Belgian workers in 5.67 working days in 2017 (compared to 5.33 days in 2016 and 6.79 days in 2015).” He goes on, “Using the 2019 calendar, therefore on 8 January Bel 20 CEOs will have earned the equivalent of the median annual wage of the Belgian worker. A CEO earns 46 times the median wage.”
Just like the “gilets jaunes”, the trade union is worried about the wage increases. “When you consider the evolution of real wages (that is to say by removing the inflation element) remuneration per worker has increased by 9.1% in Belgium between 1996 and 2018, compared to 4.9% in Germany, 17.3% in France and 18.1% in the Netherlands. Our wages have advanced to a level barely above the cost of living, unlike the Netherlands and France.
The last three years have been record decrease years. “Belgian workers have reason to be frustrated at present. Belgium has seen ten years of decrease in real wages since 1996, including four since the Michel government has been in power (2015 to 2018, which now although in power, has limited remit up to the election, editor’s note). Wages have decreased by 2.5% since the Michel government was first in power, which is the most significant loss of purchasing power since 1996.”
The trade union denounces the tax shift implemented by the government but offset by both the jump in the wages index and higher tax on consumption. The CNE warns, “The decreases in employers’ social security contributions have consequences upon the quality of public services and the scope of social security, which is increasingly being financed by citizens themselves. The inter-professional agreement has to be the opportunity for us to increase gross real wages.”
The Brussels Times